Headlines: June 24th, 2010

The culture of local government will be changed and the rules of central control will be re-written. The Government is committed to ensuring that localism is delivered and that there is a real devolution of power to local people. This pledge was given by Local Government Minister Bob Neill.

He said that local government accounts for almost a quarter of UK public sector spending and the change is needed at a time of financial pressure. There will be a programme to promote a radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups. The aim is to develop a strong society where individuals, families and communities are more able to take on responsibility to improve their areas.

He believes that the balance of power between central and local government needs to be reset and a new system developed around trust in people and professionals. The first practical demonstration of this development is the abolition of the comprehensive area assessment regime. The aim of abolition is to give more local responsibility and to give local people the information to provide effective accountability. Details of replacement arrangements for CAA have not yet been published, but they are likely to include local tailor made monitoring arrangements.

The move to localism is a major challenge and hard questions have to be asked by everyone about how far power can be transferred to put people fully in charge of their own destinies. The total place approach, which involves different public bodies in an area tackling an area of spending jointly, cannot be fully exploited without a delegation of budgets and the removal of budget boundaries. Securing the agreement of the different Whitehall departments to delegate budgets in this way will not be easy.